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Worship Theme: God Kept His Promise of Salvation

Sermon Theme: Salvation Time Has Come

Did you make it to midnight on New Years’ Eve? Did you do it without a nap earlier in the day? Some of you are night owls that stay up late pretty regularly, and so midnight on New Years’ is not a big deal. Others of you are in bed by 10pm pretty faithfully and an extra two hours is stretching it! It’s that later group that hits the wall at about 10:45pm every New Year’s! Then they have to ask the question: “Am I going to make it to midnight or should I take a nap and set an alarm for 11:55?” Or maybe it’s a different question that you asked: “Is it even worth the wait? Is it even worth staying up to ring in the New Year?”

There are differing opinions and differing levels of excitement concerning New Year’s. But regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, there are certainly things in life that you look forward to. And that means that by definition, that there are things that you spend time waiting for. The children got a chance to flex their “looking forward to” muscles and their “waiting” muscles. Eight days ago, was Christmas, the end of a long period of waiting. The kids have been waiting to open presents for a really long time. Back in February when they were at the store with you and they asked if they could have that toy, what did you tell them? “Put it on your Christmas list!” And then the catalogs came and they submitted their wish lists. I don’t know what your experience is – my kids submitted their Christmas list on PowerPoint this year – complete with Amazon links to guarantee that the exact gifts that they asked for would arrive. Kids turn over their lists to mom and dad, and then…they wait! There’s not much else they can do! They can pepper their parents with questions to try to figure out which gifts they got and which they didn’t, but otherwise all they can do is wait. Until a day or two before Christmas when the presents start appearing under the tree. Then the excitement grows, “Is that gift what I think it is? I bet I know what that one is!” But still, they have to wait until Christmas time arrives.

The person who is struggling waits…and waits…and waits for the pain to be over and the difficult time to pass. It feels like life is giving them only bad, so they wait for some good news to finally arrive. They wait for something to change the circumstances of their life. The teenager waits, sometimes not so patiently, to get that drivers’ license. They wait to turn 16 – or 15 ½ to get their permit! They take their driver’s test and hopefully pass on the first try, because otherwise it just more waiting. Then they finally become a full-fledged, legal and licensed driver in the state of Wisconsin. But that only leads to more waiting – because the only thing better than have a driver’s license is having a driver’s license and a car. So, they wait and save and save and wait until they can have a car of their own and achieve the highest level of freedom. There are a small number of children but a larger number of parents that are waiting…for Christmas break to be over. The kids will go back to school and the parents can get back to the regular routine. In life, there’s plenty of waiting!

Today we are going to celebrate the fact that a wait is over! A wait is over because a time has arrived. And it’s not just any time, it’s God’s Time. And it’s not a time for God to do just anything. It’s time for him to do the most important thing of all. Today our Christmas joy continues and we rejoice that Salvation Time Has Come!   

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be an Old Testament believer? Generation after generation – for thousands of years, God piled on promise after promise about the coming Savior. He sent priests and prophets to proclaim the message of the Messiah. God piqued their interest for sure. They knew he was coming, but God was never really specific about when! So, they wondered: “Is the Messiah coming soon?” “Will the Messiah come in my lifetime? My children’s?” Everybody asked the questions, but no one really knew!

Well, God knew! God knew exactly when the right time would be. He knew exactly how much waiting was enough for his people. His timing was right and perfect - as it always is. That’s what Paul reminds us when he says: But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.

God’s time was perfect! All the promises had been fulfilled. He arranged the powerful rulers of history like pawns on a chess board to pave the way for Jesus to be born. God ordered that census that Caesar thought was his idea. God sent Mary and Joseph, down to Royal David’s city, to satisfy their responsibilities to that census. God sent his Son to parents who were procrastinators so that they would miss out on a chance to grab a room at the Bethlehem Holiday Inn. We sing about how Gentle Mary was. I wonder if extremely pregnant Mary was that gentle with Joseph concerning that slip-up. But it really was a part of God’s plan. God used people and personalities in history to ensure that his will would be done. And it was, in the stable and in the manger, in every last detail of Christ’s birth, his will was done. It was how he told the world that salvation time is here.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. Being under law is a phrase, we don’t often use today, but it’s the opposite we do. In the Western movie, the townspeople complain: “The sheriff thinks that he’s above the law!” Their complaint is that they think the Sheriff thinks or acts as if the laws of the town don’t apply to him. But, if a person is under the law, it means that that person is subject to the law of the land.

When Paul tells us that Jesus was born under the law, it means that he put himself there under the law. Though he truly is the God of the universe, the God who writes his moral law on people’s hearts, he subjected himself to those very same laws. As God, he is far better than and far above our human need for law and order, yet he was willing to put himself there, because that’s where you and I are.

But it was more than putting himself where we are, he put himself where we fail. We live under the law, but not very well. We don’t hold the law up in our lives, instead we break it every day. We were born as slaves to our sinful nature. We could never shake the sin that ruled out lives and could never break free from the bondage that the devil held us in. The law and its punishment are an impossibly heavy weight. The guilt that we feel and the debt that owe for hurting others and for disobeying our God are crushing weights that we cannot balance in our lives. Left unchecked we would certainly be crushed to death by the enormity of our sins.

But God sent Jesus to carry that weight. Jesus held up under the law. He kept God’s law perfectly in our place. He obeyed when we disobey. He stood up when we shy away. He loved others when we are too busy loving ourselves to care about anyone else. He filled in the gaps of our imperfect lives with his overflowing love. He obeyed for you and me and all who ever lived. He came to announce that Salvation Time Has Come.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, Jesus not only obeyed for us, but he redeemed us from slavery to sin. He bought us back from the devil’s power and ransomed us so that we could be a part of God’s family once more. The Apostle Peter, in his first letter, chapter 1, echoes Paul’s thoughts He tells us the price that Jesus paid to make you his own: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake (1 Peter 1:18-20). Christ Jesus shed his precious blood for us. He was born to die for our sins, to make us his forever. He gave up his life, so that we could have life to the fullest.

In our gospel Zechariah praises God for the very same thing: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

 Salvation Time Has Come and that means that we share life with Christ. As surely as he rose from death’s dark prison, so surely will we rise to be with him in glory. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. It’s not our doing or our merit, but it’s all the love of God that puts us in his family. We’ve been adopted into a full place in his family. He’s given us sonship.

Our adoption into God’s family gives us the full rights of being in God’s family. When a family adopts a child, that child isn’t on probation. That child isn’t accepted on a limited - trial basis. When a family choses adoption, the child that comes into the family is welcomed with open arms and shown the fullest love imaginable. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we have a full place in God’s family. He doesn’t withhold any of his love or any of his promises. They are all ours, because we are adopted as sons. We have every benefit, every promise, even a stake in the family future.

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. As sons we enjoy favored status in God’s kingdom. Have you ever thought about that? We have the same name that Christ himself enjoyed. We are “sons of God!” Christ Jesus makes us like himself in his Father’s eyes. He makes himself our brother. And that makes us heirs – heirs of the riches of heaven…heirs of everlasting life.

Dear Christian men and women and children, you are sons! You are sons of God and siblings of the Savior. You bear the family name of Christian, and have his promises of peace and life. You have forgiveness from the one who took your sins to the cross, a brother who now says, come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest! (Matthew 11:28). Your Sibling Savior loves you and wants to make sure you never forget. That’s why he says to you: Surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age! (Matthew 28:20). You have a room in the mansions of heaven, with your name on the door. Jesus himself is preparing that room for you. You have an inheritance that’s been promised you through Jesus’ blood and the riches of God’s grace and glory lie in wait for you in heaven.

Salvation Time Has Come. God sent Jesus to work out his plan and he carried it out to a tee. He’s made an eternal impact in your life. And now the time has come for us to thank him. We can thank him for our freedom by using our lives to honor and praise him. We can thank him for his love, by reflecting that love in the way we treat others and by seizing opportunities to share his love with those in our communities. We can thank God with generous offerings. We can thank God by generously devoting time to service, time to worship, time to the study of his Word. We can thank God by living upright lives because we know that God is praised and given worth and worship as we obey his commands. We couldn’t do it before, sinners bringing glory to a holy God, but now that Salvation Time Has Come, by faith and in the family of God we can do just that –we can live our lives for him.

Salvation Time Has Come in Jesus’ birth. And now we wait. We worship while we wait, but we wait, for his plans for us to be fulfilled in our lives. We live our lives in active service to him and to others, but all the while we wait – we wait for the time to come. We wait for his time to be right again – to take us to be with him or for his return on the Last Day. Either way his timing is right and either way, heaven is ours on the other side. Until that day, cling to him and his promises, trust in his power to protect and rejoice in the hope that we have - because Salvation Time Has Come. Amen.

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Grace Lutheran Church
1209 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202